Book Review: On Agate Hill by Lee Smith

If you are looking for an epic story to read this is it. On Agate Hill is a drama that spans much of the life of the Molly, the main character. The Civil War changes the circumstances of her life, as does losing family members, going to boarding school, and marrying for love.

Molly is a very independent, circumspect girl. She grows quite wild, raising herself on the once grand estate of Agate Hill. Her life has been full of loss. Her father died in the war, and her mother and siblings soon after. She lives how she pleases until death takes her uncle and she is forced into going to a private boarding school. At the conclusion of her years at school, she takes up residence in close-knit community in the Appalachian mountains as a school teacher. While there she falls in love and marries, something she swore she'd never do. She has several happy years before things all of the sudden come crashing down on her. And then, coming full circle she goes back "home" to Agate Hill.

I can't say that this was my favorite book. It was a nice story, but that was all that it was. It lacked real literary substance. In a lot of ways it reminded me of a Belva Plain novel, following one character through the triumphs and tragedies of life.

My Rating

Overall: 3 stars

Objectionable Content: Again, this book is kind of like a Belva Plain novel, there is some sexual content.

Book Review: Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

I just finished reading this book about five minutes ago. So while it is fresh in my mind, I will be able to remember all of the details, but I have not given myself time to really ruminate on it much. I do think that it will be a book that will stay with me for a while though.

Five Quarters of the Orange is written by Joanne Harris, who you may recognize by her other popular book, Chocolat. The book is told by an old French woman who returns to the village of her childhood. She has inherited her mother's old scrapbook that is full of recipes, memories, and secrets. As Framboise rebuilds the old farmhouse and starts a little restaurant, she recounts her past. She lived in the farmhouse during the German occupation of WWII. She was nine at the time, but remembers quite clearly the events that led up to her family having to leave the village in disgrace.

I was easily pulled into this story. The characters were well thought out and the storytelling was marvelous. I loved all of the mention of food, even though I'm not familiar with French cuisine. Beware when reading this book. It merrily floats along, keeping you interested the whole time, but it does turn a bit dark. It is a book about family struggles during war, so some of it is not pretty.

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars

Objectionable Content: Adult themes, and a fair amount of swearing.

Book Review: Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

Anyone else a Sandra Dallas fan? I've loved her books since I first read The Persian Pickle Club about 10 years ago. I can't say that I loved Buster Midnight's Cafe, and I haven't read her newest one yet (Prayers for Sale), but I thought that Tallgrass was one of her better novels.

The setting for Tallgrass is very important for the plot of this suspenseful tale. It is set in a small sugar beet farming community in Colorado in the early 1940's. The story opens with Rennie, a smart yet naive, thirteen year old girl at the train station as she is watching a large group of Japanese Americans who have just arrived. They are being hauled off to an internment camp (Tallgrass) that is just down the road from her home. Many of the townspeople are in an uproar over having to live so close to the "enemy." So, befriending some the Japanese Americans during this time of war is very unpopular and creates problems for Rennie and her family.

This book is based on what might have taken place in a small town that was so closely tied to an interment camp. It explores the feelings of the time. To keep the book from being boring, the author injected a little murder mystery into the thick of things. I think this was an excellent addition, since it stirred things up a bit more. The townspeople definitely took sides, and from this a lot of conflict arose. It was a good look into the not too distant past.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars

Objectionable Content: Adult themes. Really a pretty clean book.

Book Review: The World to Come by Dara Horn

I've got to tell you that I'm a sucker for novels that fictionalize the story of well known artists, writers, musicians, etc. I loved The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Girl in Hyacinth Blue. So, I was drawn to this book, since it revolves around one of the paintings of Marc Chagall.

The World to Come opens with the main character stealing a Marc Chagall painting from a museum. It continues with this story, but jumps to many other characters' stories and soon you understand that these peoples' lives are all intertwined. They all play an important role in how this painting came to be where it is. The history of this painting is all very interesting, as are the many Yiddish folktales that the author has sprinkled throughout the book. These give some depth to the book, but also are great asides in themselves.

I thought that the book was very imaginative and random. Some may think that it might be better if the author didn't go off on so many tangents, but I really liked this. I thought the last chapter was brilliant, and I would read it again just for the ending. I know it has been compared to The History of Love, but I didn't feel like there was much to compare. I loved both of these books for different reasons.

I think this might make a good read for a book group, if your group is a little bit artsy. It was really very clean and had many subjects that could be discussed (a big one being where we came from and where we go after this life).

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars. I loved the stories. I loved the author's imagination. I would give it 5 stars for sure if I had felt a little bit closer to the characters.

Objectionable Content: There were a handful of swear words throughout the book.

Book Review: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Curiosity made me pick up this book. It's about a giant. Besides that, it has so many elements that I enjoy in a book. It has bits and pieces about herbs, magic, and quilts.

The story outlines the life of Truly, a girl who starts out big at birth, and continues to grow at an astronomical rate. She struggles to find herself amid all of the loss that seems to be her lot in life. Her life is not the one that she would have imagined for herself. She is stuck in a life that is humiliating, serving an undeserving relative. The tables do eventually turn for Truly, and she is finally free to live and make decisions for herself.

I felt that this book started out strong and lost a bit of it's momentum. The story is compelling, but too much of it is told in the preface. It is one of those books that does make you think about medical ethics. Is there really only black and white, or does the line sometimes blur and you just follow your heart? It would probably make a pretty good pick for a book club read.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars. I would probably give it five stars if the story had not lagged.

Objectionable content: There is a part where a character has premarital sex, and there is also some details about a character who is homosexual.

Should I finish the book?

Lately, I can't bring myself to spend much time on a book that just isn't doing it for me. So, what do you do when you are half way through a book and decide that you are not enjoying it? I hate giving up on a book when it seems like it should be good, or will maybe take a turn for the better. I'm having this dilemma right now with this book:

Should I continue on? Has anyone read it? I know it's supposed to be good. I've read the other two books by this author, The Christmas Jar, and The Wednesday Letters. They were both nice stories. I just can't stand how the main character in this book is so apathetic to his whole situation.

Book Review: So B. It by Sarah Weeks

Sometimes I judge a book by it's cover. This time I was intrigued by the title. When I picked up this book and skimmed the first couple of lines I knew I'd have to read it.

So B. It is a young adult book that although short and simple, has a lot of meaning. It is essentially about twelve year old Heidi who decides that she must uncover the truth about herself. Her life is not the average life of a young girl. She lives with her mentally disabled mother and is being raised by her agoraphobic neighbor. Communication with her mother is limited at best (her mother only has a vocabulary of 23 words), so she doesn't know where she came from or who she is. She shows great courage and determination as she sets out on her quest to solve the mystery of her identity.

I definitely would recommend this book. I was hooked from the first couple of pages. The story was wonderful and the writing style was fun. If you are looking for a quick read that won't disappoint I'd give this one a try.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars. I thought this book was well done.

Objectionable Content: There is a question of Heidi's parentage, so maybe a more mature theme, but nothing objectionable.

What I Have Been Reading (or not reading)

I have to say that I have been in a reading slump lately. It happens every once in a while, usually when I get back into knitting/crocheting, baking, crafting, couponing, or family history. The distraction this time is family history. I guess I shouldn't call it a distraction, but I tend to let it take over all my free time.

So, not much reading besides this book: Kulms on Two Continents by June Brown. It is an amazing book of biographies and family history. I can't even imagine the time that went into the research for this book. Right now I am so caught up in some of the lives of my ancestors, I feel like I know them.

A Little Secret

Growing up I can remember coming home from school and vegging in front of the TV. I needed that time to just unwind and relax. This was in the 80's mind you. So think back, what reruns were on everyday that a child would watch? Little House on the Prairie of course. I know I've watched every episode a dozen times each. I got to the point where I could tell by the opening music which episode it was (before the title of the episode appeared). This way I could tell if it was going to be one of those really sad ones that I just couldn't watch again. I remember especially loving the ones with Nellie Olsen, when she was so mean and nasty, but always got what she deserved in the end.

Anyway, my little secret that I'm about to share with you is that up until now I have never read the Little House series. Can you believe that? I hate to admit it, but I never thought I needed to read them since I had seen the show. The truth is that I don't think that I would have appreciated them as much back then as I do now. They are simple, but refreshing in that they are so ordinary. And what was once so ordinary, is not so common now, so they are very educational. If you have never read this series, I have to tell you that you may be surprised. I highly recommend them!

Food for Thought

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Book Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza is a thirteen year old girl who has been living a very privileged life in Mexico. It is during the 1930's. Her father is a wealthy land owner and she is loved and adored by everyone around her. Then, life suddenly takes a turn when her father dies and her greedy uncles take over the land. She and her mother are forced to flee, leaving everything they know behind.

Esperanza Rising is a very thought provoking book about the plight of those seeking seasonal employment on the big farms in California during the Great Depression. Esperanza learns the value of hard work and after a while overcomes her selfish ways. She learns what things are really important, along with many other valuable life lessons. It really is a book with some substance to it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. I was not bored in reading it, even though it was written for children. I think that I will include it on my list of 'read aloud books to my kids' for the summer.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars. I thought is was a lovely well written book.

Objectionable Content: none

Book Review: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Well, this book review has been a long time in coming. I've wanted to finish this book for a while, but, you know life sometimes gets in the way.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this in depth biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The title of this book to be exact is is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy. If you don't already know about Bonhoeffer, then like me, the title alone is intriguing.

Bonhoeffer, born to a wealthy, influential German family in 1906, lived a very privileged, idyllic life. His father was a well-known psychiatrist, and his mother was educated and from a respected, titled family. He grew up in a household that valued study and education. He excelled at anything he set his mind to and became a gifted musician. He really could have chosen any field of study, but at the age of fourteen felt that he had been called to the ministry. This seemed to have perplexed both of his parents, since neither one (especially his father) had ever been religious.

After Dietrich Bonhoeffer finished his studies, he traveled extensively. He was able to observe many different Christian congregations this way, and he made mental notes as to what he believed each had to offer. He soon led his own parish, giving not only highly academic sermons on Sundays, but showing that he was a devoted pastor who gave to children and those in need. He had faith, and believed that God spoke to him. He was a brilliant teacher and loved to teach others to meditate on the scriptures.

At this time, Germany was being changed drastically by Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer could see the writing on the wall and decided to act. He was instrumental in forming the Confessing Church which broke away from the German church. Then later, when Germany declared war, he became a member of the resistance.

While reading this book, I was constantly amazed at the sincerity and faith of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He did not waver or stray in his beliefs. He truly was a force for good, a real hero. It has been one of those books that I feel like I am a better person for having read it.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars for sure! This book was inspiring, informative, and just a great read. The writing style was not boring at all, but actually humorous at times.

Objectional Content: none

Joy in the journey

I've been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Each day brings something new, and it is not always something pleasant. As a mother I've learned to just take it one day at a time, then when things are rough it doesn't seem so overwhelming. Of course I still need to be reminded of this from time to time (like when kids are sick, potty training, and around the clock care of a newborn - just to name a few).

There are plenty of good times. Those are fun and happy. I feel truly happy when my children accomplish something. I love when my family is all working together and everyone is getting along. I always make a mental note to remember the few perfect moments in life. These are so very few and far between that they are easy to miss unless you are looking for them.

I believe that most people believe that happiness is a result or an end product. I suppose that it can be to some degree, but I like to try to be content or find joy in the journey. I think happiness or joy is found in the process of living. It is in the little things. It is found by being grateful and patient.

You might be wondering what my rambling about finding joy in the journey has to do with reading. Well, I think that as I read I get enveloped into the story and start to really live and breathe the details. I enjoy the escape into another "world" that I find through reading. And then I find that when I finish a book I usually feel let down a bit, because I don't want it to end (that's why I love sequels). It is being in the middle of the book that I love, I know the characters and still have plenty of pages left. I find joy in the journey of reading a book.

Project Gutenberg

I just recently became aware of a website that offers over 30,000 e-books that are totally free to download. It is How cool is that? It looks like most of these books are "vintage" or at least old enough that the copyright has expired. So, if it's a classic that you want to read this would be the place to find it.

Another great place to download free e-books is at

Slow Progress

I love the book that I'm reading right now, but it's taking me forever to read it. It's a biography called Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich by Eric Metaxas. I am finding it fascinating to read about what went on in Germany when Hitler came to power. So much of what happened then is unmistakably happening again, this time in our own country. I will definitely post my review of this book as soon as I finish.

I would love to hear what you are reading now. Have you read any books about Nazi Germany that really stand out in your mind? I can think of two that I will probably always remember: The Hiding Place and The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust.

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

What a great book. If you are a fan of the gothic romance/mystery type of book (like Rebecca, and The Thirteenth Tale), you will love this novel. It really isn't very dark, or ghost filled, but it is strangely enigmatic.

The basic plot of The Forgotten Garden goes like this: A woman tries to find out her own true identity after learning that she was found as a 4 year old by her "parents." She had been left on the dock of a small port town in Australia, with only a small white suitcase that held a few odd contents. She is in her sixties when she finally tracks down information that leads her to her "home" in England. Circumstances prevent her from uncovering all of the mystery, so it is not until years later when her grandaughter is curious about it all that the details start to fall into place.

The plot summary really doesn't do the book justice. It was very well written. Kate Morton is one of those truly gifted storytellers. She is able to tell the story in such a way that you are hungry to read more. It was suspenseful and fun too. I also enjoyed getting to know all of the characters. They all had very distinct personalities. It is one of those books that seem very familiar (think the Secret Garden). At first this bothered me, but the author creatively remedied this before I ended up thinking that she was just a copycat.

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars. I loved the book, I would probably give it 5 stars if I thought that it was all truly original.

Objectionable Content: Well, I don't want to spoil the story, but let's just say that there is some immoral behavior.

Thoughts on Easter

I'm really not very good at expressing my true thoughts on how blessed I feel this Easter. I do know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that He suffered and atoned for my sins. He was crucified, yet He conquered death and returned to earth as a resurrected being. I know that He lives and loves me.

I hope those of you reading this know that I don't mean to be irreverent in sharing this passage from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I just think it has profound meaning and helps me realize that I should never take the meaning of Easter for granted.

My Dear Wormwood,

Now I am obliged to write to you about the most uncomfortable subject. At all costs I would wish to avoid even the mention of this matter but it must be broached. I am referring to the Christian holiday known as Easter. As you know it is the celebration of the day when our Enemy above slew death. Oh, what a shock it was to us all that day. I can remember so vividly my reaction the moment it happened! What screams of rage and anger were heard everywhere in our Kingdom Below. How totally helpless we felt at that moment. We were outmaneuvered. Never in a million years could we have imagined that the Enemy would really love those pitiful humans enough to go through with it. He actually died a terrible death to keep them out of our clutches. Why should they be of such worth to Him? We could not understand. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning.

Before the Enemy created these human beings, our Father below was well on his way to becoming Ruler of the Universe. The Christian’s Bible says somewhere that our father was thrown out of heaven by the Enemy, but don’t you believe it. Heaven had gotten too small for him. He decided to go on to bigger and better things. And he wasn’t about to let the Enemy tell him what to do anymore. Our father below knew much better how things should be.

About a third of us went with him. We wanted to better ourselves. We were going with a winner.

Then the Enemy brought into being these human creatures. That was a blow, I’ll tell you. They walked in perfect harmony with him. They did whatever He said. They were completely on His side. All they wanted was to please Him. They lived in this beautiful garden and were perfectly happy. Ugh!!! We could see the handwriting on the wall. Pretty soon the whole earth would be full of them.

But our father below devised a plan. He disguised himself and snuck into their garden one day. In his clever way he convinced them that there was something better than pleasing the Enemy. They could become their own god. They could be in charge, be the boss of their own life. “Why obey him? There is so much more to life than that. It is so foolish to let the Enemy be your God, he told them. Think what you will miss if you stay with Him. I will give you a higher wisdom”, he promised.

(Have you noticed that our father below is still using this approach very effectively today? Those humans are so impressed with their own wisdom now. You can get them to believe almost anything. They will absolutely destroy themselves now rather than accept the authority of the Enemy above. They are such a stupid bunch of mortals.)

Anyway, as I was saying, our father below convinced them to disobey their Creator. He told them, “go ahead and do it, you will not die.” (a little lie there, he’s an expert at that all right.) He knew that is exactly what would happen. And then those feeble earthlings would be in our clutches.

They disobey their Creator, rebel against him, and then they become ours. Their Creator can’t keep them because He can’t have in His presence anyone that isn’t pure and holy. He is so narrow. He insists on only what is good. That doesn’t leave any room for all the bad out there.

Well, the humans fell for it. They got suckered into our camp. And immediately they started to die.

And ever since, death has been our great ally. Do you know how many millions we bring into Hell every year through death? It is one of our few pleasures. How delicious to see them suffer! They feel such loss and pain when their loved ones die. Death was the great triumph of our father below.

I say “was” because the Enemy changed all that.

The first thing he did was to lower himself and be born as one of “them.” We almost got him killed when he was a baby. But he eluded us then. He grew up to be a man. He taught those poor humans about himself, all the while not really spreading around who he was. Then one day he gave himself up to be killed by a bunch of jealous religious leaders. We figured it was a big bluff. Just an excuse to perform a public miracle and escape at the last minute. But he actually went through with it. He let them nail him to a cross and he died. We all thought, “Aha, you’re beaten now! You’ve just made your big mistake!”

All of us were feeling, for a few hours, a big relief from that constant fear we had always felt toward the Enemy. Maybe all those prophecies about our last judgment would never happen after all. Death had claimed the Creator of life. Finally our Lord Satan would be undisputed ruler of all.

Then Sunday morning came. The Enemy reappeared. Suddenly, he was alive. Death could not hold him. But it was even worse than that. He had become an innocent sacrifice for the sins of all those humans. He had paid their penalty. He had died in their place. Now death could not hold them either. They could be forgiven and reunited with the Enemy. They can now live forever. For all practical purposes, death has died. There has never been a more disastrous day in the history of the universe.

That, my dear Wormwood, is the whole sad truth.

There is only one thing we can do. We must redouble our efforts. We must do everything we can to make sure that these humans do not believe in Jesus. And if they do believe then make them lukewarm and too busy with other things to be of any use to him.

We have some reason to hope. Much of the media help us. And there is such a climate of pleasure-seeking and materialism that often the Christians aren’t any different from anybody else. Many Christians are uncommitted. Some are hypocrites. And we have got many sincere people convinced they are so guilty that they have no hope. Others are bitter and have closed their ears to the message of the Resurrection. Others are just self-satisfied and only care about now.

We have laid some very good groundwork intellectually. Many educated people have been kept from considering both sides and are firmly convinced that there is no intellectual basis for believing in Jesus. They don’t know what we know and we are not about to tell them. Many of these people are even convinced that we don’t exist! That’s very good! In closing, I will just say, Fight on, Wormwood. I fear we will lose in the end, but let us take as many of them with us as we can. Their willful, selfish part of them gives us much fertile ground to cultivate. We may have lost the war, but let’s go out and win some battles for our father below.

Your Uncle,

Book Review: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I think that this was the very first book that my book club read, but I seemed to have missed it somehow. I can now check it off of my to read list. It is a juvenile book that was given the Newberry Medal in 1979, so it could be considered a children's classic.

I thought it was a fun little read. It is a whodunit murder mystery that lets the reader put all of the clues together and guess who the murderer might be. There are sixteen would be heirs and 220 million dollars at stake. There are bombings, and dead bodies, and poisoning? I know this doesn't seem like it would be suitable for children, but really it is very tame. It's just fun. It would be a great book for a child who is ready for something a little more involved than a Cam Jensen or a Nancy Drew book.

I guess my only critism would be that the middle was a bit slow. I thought that I had it all figured out by then and was just waiting for the end to see if I was right.

My Rating

Overall: 3 stars. A child would probably give it a higher rating though.

Objectionable Content: none

Book Review: Riding the Bus With My Sister by Rachel Simon

I don't really know where to start with this book. It was a story of two sisters, but it was also many other things. I almost felt like I should get out pencil and paper and take notes as I was reading.

Riding the Bus With My Sister is a true story, written by the older sister (Rachel) in order to understand her younger, mentally retarded sister (Beth). Rachel agrees to accompany her sister on her bus routes as often as she can for a year. Beth lives on her own and gets along just fine. She has decided that she does not want to work, instead she rides city buses day in, day out. In doing this, she has created a world for herself that she is in control of. Rachel learns about her sister and life in general as she embarks on this journey.

Rachel has a chance to meet all of the people who mean the most to Beth including her boyfriend, her support team, and most importantly the bus drivers. These drivers seem like average, everyday people, but they each have a gift (their time and kindness) that they are more than willing to share.

I was drawn into this book by how candid Rachel seemed to be about her feelings toward her sister. I was able to get a feel for how it might be to grow up with a sibling that has a disability. I also was intrigued by all of the different philosophies of life that there seem to be, as presented by the bus drivers. I guess driving a bus isn't just about driving a bus. I could go on and on about this book. There are a lot of issues that could be discussed, such as medical and social ethics, familial relationships, stereotypes, etc. It should make for a great book club discussion.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 stars. It was well written. Those who enjoy memoirs will really like this book.

Objectionable Content: none

Do you crave certain foods because of the books you read?

I don't know about you, but my family can always tell what kind of book I'm reading by what kind of foods I crave. I often read books about China, and when I do, my husband knows this is his chance to stop for take out at Panda Express. Of course when I read The Help, I had to try my hand at making a caramel cake (chocolate pie not so much!). Every once in a while I read a book like The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, where the whole book is filled with the mention of food (each chapter is named after a different kind of candy). This drives me crazy. I usually get so fixated on whatever food it is that they are eating that I have to have it. I think in this case it was a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Am I making you hungry yet? Are you as easily influenced as I am when you read?

Book Review: Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen

I recently watched a PBS show that aired in 2001 called Frontier House. It is a reality show that chronicled the lives of three families who volunteered to step back in time to the year 1883. These families wanted to see if they had what it took to live the homesteading life in Montana for five months. I bring this up because I think I chose to read this book because I enjoyed the show so much.

Hattie Big Sky is a young adult book about a sixteen year old girl, during the WWI era, who inherits her uncle's homestead. As an orphan, she jumps at the chance to move West, escaping yet another undesirable situation living with extended family. Once in Montana, she learns that she only has a few months to prove up her homestead if she wants the deed to the land.

I loved that this book was such a nice clean read. I applaud the author for including Christian themes such as, "God works in mysterious ways," and to live honorably and be courageous. In reading the author's notes, I found out that she based this book on her own great-grandmother who came to Montana and homesteaded by herself. I love real history like this!

In critiquing this book, I think that I would have to say that it could have used more detail. I wanted to see it all in my mind, but had a hard time picturing things. I also think that it is a little bit hard to believe that a girl so young would be safe out by herself on the frontier.

My Rating

Overall: probably 3.5 stars.

Objestionable Content: none


I recently discovered a new website called that is really cool. If you like to read and review books for free , then you might want to check it out. I just signed up the other day, but haven't sent for a book to read yet.

My Summer with Julia by Sarah Woodhouse

Well, I don't have much to say about this book. I don't think it was worth the time that I spent to read it, even though it was a short book.

In a nutshell, a middle aged, British portrait artist spends a lot of time trying to both remember and forget a long lost friend. This friend, who has recently died, has bequeathed her a box of memories that she is now sorting though.

I usually like to read novels written in first person, but this not this one. It made it confusing. It was hard to distinguish the flashbacks from the present. I found the story very ho-hum (boring), I'm not sure why I even decided to finish it.

My Rating

Overall: 1 star

Objectionable Content: none

Book Review by Aleah: The Story of Figure Skating by Michael Boo

This book is about famous ice skaters and how ice skating as a sport came about. In this book it gives a list of examples of moves that singles and pairs do on the ice. For example: the axil, sit spin, camel spin, toe loop, and death spiral. One of the famous ice skaters I read about was Peggy Flemming.

I enjoyed this book because I'm really into ice skating. I don't usually read non fiction, but it happens to be a good book. What I didn't like about the book was how a few of the paragraphs lost me, or in other words, I didn't understand. Overall, it was a great book. I would recommend this to anyone who loves non fiction, or who is really into science. I hope you enjoy the book!

In My Opinion

Everyone has their favorite authors. I mean authors that you can count on to deliver a good story every time. I have several of those. Lately though, I have picked up books by some of my favorite authors to read, but have had to stop short and toss them aside. They have not been suitable to continue reading. Why? Well, I'll tell you why, although I can't do full reviews of these books, since I haven't read them all the way through.

First on my list is Rococo by Adriana Trigiani. I have tried probably three different times to read this book. I just can't get into it at all. I've enjoyed all of the other books by this author (the Big Stone Gap series, Queen of the Big Time, Lucia, Lucia ), so you would think that I'd like this one. It is just too much for me. It is very stylized and overdone. I can't get to the story with all of the fluff.

Next is a Michael Crichton book called State of Fear. I picked this one up because I was in the mood for something fast-paced and suspenseful. I'm sorry to say that I only got a few pages into it before I knew I really couldn't read any more. I got hung up on the bad language. I don't know if I hadn't let this bother me in some of the others of his that I've read (Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Sphere, Timeline, Congo ), or if I just ignored it then.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, I'm sad to say is another one that I really couldn't continue reading. I wanted to keep reading her short stories that are in this book, I absolutely love her writing. I think her writing is frank, unfettered, but sensitive and intuitive. The problem is that I ran into a sex scene in the third story. I'd rather not have to run into another one, so that's the end of that.

Oh well. Life is too short to waste my time on books that aren't worth reading.

Book Review by Aleah: My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe

This is a book about a girl named Ida. She's starting 4th grade and she had a friend named Elizabeth. She moved away. Ida meets this girl named Stacy. Stacy loves to tell stories about things that can't happen. Sometimes Stacy tells people fake stories about her life. Ida secretly hides notes for her and they become secret friends.

I liked this book because it was sort of funny. I also liked it because it's about a 4th grader like me. What I didn't like about it was that a girl named Jessica in the book is mean to Ida. It's a great book though. I would recommend this book to girls that are ten and in the 4th grade.

Book Review: The Help by Kathry'n Stockett

I decided to jump on the bandwagon and read this book. It is so popular right now, and many of my friends on goodreads have given it four and five stars. After reading it, I too will recommend it to others.

To give you an overview, the setting is 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. The civil rights movement has just begun, but things change slowly. There are still distinct lines that cannot be crossed in this society that is far from being color blind.

In this novel, the reader is privy to the happenings of both the young, white socialites and the black maids who serve them. Among this group of socialites, is one who is all of the sudden seeing things as they really are - not right and unfair. She coerces one of her friends' maids to tell her story. Pretty soon things really get rolling, and once they are rolling there is no turning back. Lives are changed and maybe Jackson, Mississippi will be changed for the better too.

I felt very much a part of this book from the beginning. It was easy to read and the characters were very well done. I enjoyed reading the story from the different points of view. It was easy to imagine all of the things that happened to these women, they didn't seem that far fetched. I think it made me realize that it hasn't been that long ago that this story could very well have been reality.

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars. It's really hard for me to give 5 stars. I loved this book, but the middle dragged a bit, and I would have liked to have heard more of the maids' stories.

Objectionable Content: There was some bad language throughout. Also, a scene that involved a naked man.

Book Review: The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

The People of Sparks is the sequel to The City of Ember. It is a young adult book about a group of people that emerge into a post-apocalyptic world, after living for generations under the ground in the city of Ember (yes, it was made into a movie that I thought was really quite well done). In this new world they find the city of Sparks. The people there welcome them into their community with some trepidation. Food is still scarce and resources are limited. It becomes apparent that they will have to find creative solutions, if they are to get along with each other and live side by side.

Lina and Doon, who were the main characters from the previous book, play important roles in this book also. They learn a lot of new things when they are suddenly a part of a new and curious world, acquiring skills that they didn't have before. By far the most valuable of these skills is how to keep peace among the two groups of people. They are young enough and courageous enough to follow the dictates of their own conscience, leading their people once again.

I know this is probably one of those books that could easily be picked apart. I'm sure it has flaws in the details of this society that survived. If you look past these though, it is an enjoyable book. It teaches the value of peace and how to avoid war. I would say it also presents the theme of 'doing the right thing,' even when it's hard to do. Really there are a lot of good messages within its pages. I would recommend it to children and adults that liked The Giver by Lois Lowry. It has the same feel, but there is a more satisfactory ending.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars

Objectionable Content: none

Go Check Out My Book Review

Hop on over to where I have a feature book review published. The book is called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It's a book that I know you'll love.

Go ahead and check out this awesome blog. It is another blog that highlights great books that are clean reads.

The Winner

The winner of the Catching Fire giveaway is Laura who said that "I have also invited my best friend..." Congratulations and happy reading!

Do you reread?

I am not a rereader. I love to be on to the next book. I'm the same way with movies. I hardly ever watch a movie over and over again. I like to move on. What is the point in rereading something when you already know how it will end?

Well, there is a reason that classics are called classics. They can be read many times and never get old. They have details and themes that may have been passed up the first time around. And I think that as I grow older and experience more, I see things differently. This was apparent when I reread To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice. I first read these as a teenager. I thought that I remembered these books, but I was surprised that I remembered very little. I really enjoyed reading them a second time.

Do you reread? If so, what books are your favorites to read over and over again?

Book Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Now here's a book that I picked up maybe a year and a half ago when it was at the height of it's popularity. I read the first couple of chapters, then decided that it just wasn't for me. I got to the chapter that was written from the dog's perspective and thought "nope, sorry, can't wade though this." So, I wouldn't have picked it up again, but it was chosen as the next book for my book club to read.

Guess what? I'm glad that I did have the opportunity to try this book again. I enjoyed it from the beginning to almost the end (I'll elaborate on this later). I liked the writing style, which was intelligent and intimate. I also discovered that it follows the story of Hamlet very closely.

So the main character is Edgar, a young teenager, who was born mute. He and his parents live in Northern Wisconsin, in the country where they raise Sawtelle dogs (a special breed that the family has been perfecting for genereations now). He is an only child, but he is far from lonely. He has the companionship of his faithful dog Almondine, who is always looking out for him. Everything seems pretty normal until his long lost Uncle Claude shows up. Edgar seems to have a feeling about him. Then out of the blue his father keels over dead one day. Things don't add up in Edgar's mind. He searches for answers. Meanwhile, his mother takes up with Claude and the story gets increasingly interesting. (Remember, think Hamlet)

I felt very involved in this story. I know some think that there was too much detail about the dog training in places or that the story slowed. I didn't find this the case, I kind of liked how the story meandered a bit. What I didn't like was the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but it lacked power and believability. I was also left wondering about a motive. All in all, I would recommend it to anyone that likes a long book and/or loves dogs.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars. It could have been a 5 star book, but for the ending.

Objestionable Content: It did have a few swear words here and there. Also, there is the relationship between Edgar's mother and his Uncle Claude that is kind of sick and wrong.


Enter to win a copy of this:

Have you all read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins? It is a great young adult book that I think will be the next big thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it were made into a movie. Catching Fire is the second in this soon to be trilogy. So, if you'd like to win a copy of this book, here's how:

To enter please leave a comment on this series.

If you would like an extra chance at winning all you have to do is leave an additional comment telling me that you have invited someone else to come view my blog.

Good luck! The winner will be chosen at random February 10th (my son's 1st birthday).

Book Review: Out Came the Sun by Heather Collins

I read a lot of children's books, most of them are fun and cute. Every once in a while I stubble upon one that really captures my attention. This one did because it was different. It is a nursery rhyme anthology, but it also tells a bigger story.

Out Came the Sun has many of the familiar nursery rhymes that we all know and love, like Baa Baa Black Sheep, The Eensy Weensy Spider, and Little Miss Muffet. These are all illustrated beautifully and in such a way that you can follow the pictures from page to page and see what happens in a day in the life of the cute, cuddly characters. I really is a unique way to read and learn nursery rhymes.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars

Objectionable Content: none

A forgotten author: Gwen Bristow

If you only read new releases or never haunt old libraries, then you have most likely overlooked Gwen Bristow. I would classify her as "an oldie, but a goodie." She wrote most of her novels during the 1930's-1970's. Her best known work of fiction is probably Jubilee Trail, which became a best-seller in 1950. It was made into a movie in 1954.
I first became familiar with her books a couple of years ago when I had read These is My Words and was looking for something similar to read. I think it was an Amazon suggestion. Anyway, I enjoyed Jubilee Trail. It is historical fiction, with some romance. I liked it because it was one of those epic tales with adventure and romance and characters that I really got to know. If I remember, it was a little bit cheesy, but just in an old-fashioned way. I plan to read more of her books (the only other one that I have read is Celia Garth). They are nice, clean stories that are easy to pick up and read. Some of them are a bit hard to find, but many have been reprint recently. If you are an historical fiction fan you might try to find some of these:

Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture, decided that he wanted to leave something of himself for his kids after his death. As he gave "the last lecture," (he was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon) he knew that he only had a few months left to live. He had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. So, you would think that this is a book about dying, but it's not, it's a guide on how to live.

It is all about living out your childhood dreams. Randy Pausch believed that living out your childhood dreams is important and he coaches the reader on how to overcome obstacles to acheive them. His book is full of good, solid common sense advice mixed with a grab bag of memories and eccentricities. He was a truely optimistic person and it shows from beginning to end. There is no sadness in this book, only the attitude that we should all live our lives to the fullest.

My rating

Overall: 3 stars. I really felt like I knew the author after reading this book. He had a lot of good insights into how to live the life you have dreamed of. I guess I'm only giving it 3 stars since there didn't seem to be anything earth shattering in what he said. I enjoyed it, but probably won't keep it on my bookshelf to reread.

Objectionable Content: none

Book Review: The Undaunted by Gerald N. Lund

At 800 pages, it may seem a little daunting to read this book, but it is well worth the effort. It is an amazing story of real people and real events that have been woven into a fun to read narrative. The author's fictional characters blend well with those who lived to tell the tale of the Hole in the Rock trek.

David is the main character. He and his father are miners who come to Utah from England as converts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After some years, he finds himself in Cedar City, Utah as a mail rider. At this time, many Church members in the area are called to leave their homes and journey to the Four Corners area to found a new settlement that is supposed to help instigate peace in the area. The people that he joins in this little known venture are who we now refer to as the Hole in the Rock pioneers. This is their story.

Even though Gerald Lund takes a long time to get to the "story," I found myself drawn into the book immediately. David and his family are very likable characters and I just couldn't believe what I was reading when he writes about the plight of children who worked from such a young age down in the coal mines. He could have written a whole book on this alone. Once he gets his characters to Utah, I thought the "story" would begin, but then more characters are introduced, and along with them a little romance is thrown in. I enjoyed the romance, it made the story more interesting, and I didn't think that it was too over done.

One thing that I appreciated while reading this book was how the author sited all of his sources. I was able to read little snippets of journal entries and could see that for the most part he followed the actual history of these pioneers pretty closely. These people had great courage and faith. They experienced things that I can only imagine. I feel like I have become a better person just by reading this book.

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars. I would recommend this book to anyone. It is very inspirational. Maybe just a bit predictable, but this doesn't detract from the story.

Objectionable Content: None

Falling Asleep

There are so many books and so little time to read them all. What little time I do find to read I often find myself falling asleep. It is frustrating!

This is not a new problem. I remember falling asleep while reading clear back in grade school. I struggled through high school and college. It really is something that I can't control. One second I'll be reading along and the next I'll be opening my eyes, not remembering having closed them. It is a wonder that I am able to finish any book. I also have this problem of not being able to remember the endings of books that I've read, maybe these problems are related?

I only bring this up because I would love to post more book reviews of books that I have recently read, but alas, I can't seem to stay awake.


I'm currently reading Gerald Lund's The Undaunted. I'm about half way through (it's 800 pages long, so it's taking a little while), and so far I'm really enjoying it. I like how throughout the book, Gerald Lund has taken the time to document all of the real (true) historical facts that he has woven into his story. I don't want to be too judgmental yet, so I'll save my opinions for the review. For now it has made for a nice book to come home to and read at the end of the day.

Book Review: The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

I have mixed feelings about this book. It received the Newberry Award in 1996 for reasons that become obvious while reading it. The writing style was fun. It was descriptive, yet simple. The story was very entertaining and brought to life by the medieval characters that populated the pages of this book. Alyce is smart and compassionate without knowing it. Most of the people that she runs into are rude and unfeeling, they tease her. She is an orphan who has wandered, but finds her place as a midwife's apprentice kind of by chance.

I guess my misgivings about this book stem from the appropriateness of the subject matter for a young audience. It does say "12 and up" on the back, but I know I was not mature enough at 12 to have read this book. It's not graphic or anything, just suggestive. So, while I wouldn't want my ten year old to read this book, I enjoyed it. It was so short that it seemed more like a short story than a novel.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 stars.

Objectionable Content: It talks about women in labor and giving birth. It may not be appropriate for children to read.

Reading Goals for 2010

I read for pleasure most of the time, so when I speak of reading "goals," I am talking in very loose terms. There are a number of books that I'd like to read in the next while. Some of them have been around for a while, but others of them are fairly new. If you've read any of them, I would love to know what you think.

Here's my list:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Tall Grass by Sandra Dallas
Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeanette Walls
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies by Gerald Lund

I'm also going to try to read more children's literature, especially Newberry award winning books.

My Favorite Books of 2009

I have decided to list a few of the books that I have read this last year that have left me pondering and thinking , even months after I have read them. I think that they all have left an impression on me. I've read several good books in 2009, but these are probably my favorites.

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

I loved learning about the life and times of Jesus. This is a work of fiction, but it felt like it could have been true.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This isn't your everyday, same plot, nice little story. It is a little more literary and full of style. It might not be for everyone, but I had fun reading it.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I think this book was wonderful. It had charming characters and was a sweet little romance.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I still think about this book. It is one of those that is hard to read, but compelling at the same time.